The Mineral Inheritors Rights Association, has voiced concern over the lack of transparency and accountability on the part of the International Seabed Authority that has permitted the Nauru Ocean Resources Inc. to undertake exploratory deep sea mining.
Civil society activists are up in arms following the green light given by the International Seabed Authority (ISA) to the Nauru Ocean Resources Inc. (NORI) for undertaking exploratory mining in the deep-sea. The approval comes after ISA’s legal and technical commission (LTC) reviewed NORI’s environmental impact statement and the environmental management and monitoring plan.
“On 5 September 2022, the Secretary-General notified the contractor of the recommendation of the LTC. NORI will now be able to conduct a test of mining components and their integration on board its vessel Hidden Gem and is requested to report on the result of the tests in the context of its compulsory annual report,” ISA’s statement read.
India is a member of the LTC, which has 30 members with a fifth of them working for contractors for deep-sea mining companies. The LTC meets behind closed doors.
NORI is a subsidiary of The Metals Company (TMC) and according to a report appearing in the New York Times, TMC has privileged access to exploratory data from the ISA.
“This opaque process has been set out in detail in this letter from the deep sea conservation coalition to the ISA and the LTC,” say Indian activists opposing this move under the umbrella of Mineral Inheritors Rights Association (MIRA).
“This decision is an extremely disturbing development, putting the ocean, climate and all living beings on earth at threat,” they say in a statement released by MIRA.
Accountable to all humankind
MIRA has voiced concern over the lack of transparency and accountability on the part of ISA, a regulatory body with the mandate to protect the oceans, the common heritage of humankind.
“There is still no regulatory framework in place – neither civil society nor the people whose lives and livelihoods are at stake, are being consulted or are allowed to participate in the decision-making process,” the statement says, adding that “No documents related to this approval are in the public domain for public scrutiny.”
Says Rahul Basu of the Goa Foundation, “The ISA is accountable to all humankind equally for its management of deep-sea minerals. Yet it favours some parties, and conducts its affairs in the shadows without public input or participation. If the ISA were truly acting for humankind, it would adhere to the highest transparency standards and join the extractives industries’ transparency initiative.”
Moratorium on deep sea mining
Climate campaign manager from Greenpeace India, Avinash Chanchal remarked, “We must stop the destructive deep sea mining industry that would be posing a huge threat to one of the most important, fragile, and least understood ecosystems on earth.”
Arguing that deep sea mining can never be sustainable, Chanchal saysthat it would cause significant and irreversible damage to the oceans and the climate; impact the livelihoods of fisher communities and jeopardize food security.
“Scientists have already warned that deep sea mining could even make climate change worse by releasing carbon stored in deep-sea sediments or disrupting the processes that store carbon. We should also keep in mind that fish and other marine creatures could be impacted by mining-generated noise and light pollution, as well as the discharged sediment from extraction and removal processes from the ships,” Chanchal says, calling for putting a moratorium on deep-sea mining.”
Olencio Simoes, General Secretary of the National Fishworkers Forum feels that this could hit coastal areas. He said, “Deep-sea mining will lead to ocean pollution. We are also aware that the sea temperature has been rising precisely because of these kinds of explorations. Thus, such kind of mining without proper EIA (including a fair consultative process) or study will add to the ocean pollution, and this will eventually lead to rise in water temperature thereby endangering lives.”
The activists have called on world leaders and the Indian government to support a moratorium on deep sea mining. “Unless and until there is a stringent regulatory framework in place, robust processes are adopted that are open, fair, inclusive and participatory, adequate scientific research on the consequences are done, the deep-sea mining proposal must be put on hold,” MIRA says.